New guitar students typically experience sharp, piercing pain in their fingertips as they learn to push down on the strings to produce clear, clean tones. This pain can go on for a while—days or even months—until they develop callouses on their fingers or quit playing guitar altogether. The more the guitarist regularly practices the pain dissipates as the tough skin shields the fingers from pain. Calloused fingers on musicians are a good thing.
Spiritual callousness, on the other hand, is a dangerous and a serious threat to our eternal, emotional, and even physical well being. Here’s what the writer of the Book of Hebrews warned:
“Today, if you hear [God’s] voice, do not harden your hearts
as in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the wilderness.”
‘The heart’ in this biblical sense is the essence of our being— our mind, emotions, will, and even conscience. It is who we are. When the essence of our being becomes calloused, we have become desensitized to God, just as calloused fingers become desensitized to the pain of pushing down on metal strings. Our ability to know, listen and relate to, and follow God disappear as we allow our hearts to become desensitized to His presence, leading, and promptings.
There are many instances of calloused hearts in the Bible:
• Pharaoh and his officials hardened their hearts against the God of the Israelites in the aftermath of the plagues God allowed in the hope they would turn to Him and let the Israelites worship Him freely (see Exodus 9)
• The Israelites hardened their hearts against God the wilderness where they quarreled and tested God rather than trust Him. (See Psalm 95:8)
• The religious leaders and many people of Jesus’ time hardened their hearts against Him, God in the flesh. The years of religious self-righteousness, sin, and spiritual smugness made these people unable to comprehend the things of God, even when they came directly from the Son of God himself! (See Mark 6:52 and John 12:40)
The tragedy of calloused-hearted people is that they miss out on God’s best for their life —and possibly even an eternity with Him.
Like guitarists slowly developing callouses, nurturing and repeating spiritually destructive attitudes, thoughts, and behaviors over and over again cause spiritual callousness. Early on many will feel the guilt, pain, and regret of the poor spiritual attitudes and choices they make. However, rather than running to God for grace, forgiveness, and help, some choose to run away from God, blame Him, or allow bitterness and anger to toughen their being. Their false hope is that the more they continue making these choices and doing life their own way, the inner pain will dissipate as the tough skin around their being toughens. The end result is a calloused conscience that it is oblivious to right and wrong, and a life headed on a downward spiral.
There are many causes of spiritual callousness. Included in a list that would take way too much space here are complaining, demanding, harboring, hiding, self-centeredness, and the pull to do whatever I want to do regardless of its effects on my relationship with God and other people. In the midst of this spiritual disease, there is good news: Spiritual callousness does not need to be a terminal condition. God offers a new heart to any and all who turn to Him with hardened hearts:
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”
The only cure to a calloused heart is to yield and surrender it to its Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ, and to ask for a spiritual heart transplant from God. A simple prayer asking God to do what He needs to do within you is the best place to start. He alone can give you the strength to stop the repeating, destructive patterns of your life and set you on a new path with Him.
“Let us come forward to the Holy of Holies [of God’s presence] with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” Hebrew 10:2
There is hope for calloused people. His name is Jesus Christ.
God bless you!